Taking stock

My understanding is that by ‘connectivism’ we mean that knowledge is distributed across a network and that learning is the ability to access that knowledge through navigating the connections in the network. I think that’s the essence of it.

This assumes that we know what knowledge means, which is in doubt judging by the forum discussions. I can see that there is information in the network. It only becomes knowledge for me when I can make sense of it. That whole discussion in the Moodle forums around externalisation left me floundering.

Is connectivism a new learning theory? To answer this we need to agree what we mean by learning theory. From the 78 posts in the Moodle forum it appears that this is also a difficult task and there is little agreement. Personally I like the explanation provided by Stephen Hawking and quoted on Wikipedia but this relates to science so I’m not sure how helpful it is in relation to connectivism? I think connectivism provides a framework in which to think about learning, but whether this makes it a theory or not I wouldn’t like to say.

In addition I couldn’t possibly say whether connectivism is  a ‘new’  learning theory without knowing a lot more about existing learning theories and it seems to me that that could be a life-time’s work. I think you could say it’s a new perspective on learning – but does that make it a theory? So – all in all –  yes – the concept of theory may be distracting (to answer the assignment question , which incidentally I am not doing).

What are the strengths? Does connectivism resonate with your learning experiences? If so, how?


As a practical way of working/ learning, connectivism clearly makes sense in many ways. Technology is developing fast and the world is becoming a ‘smaller’ place. It’s quick and easy to connect with people from all over the world – although we shouldn’t assume that this is the case everywhere, see Frances Bell’s post (See- Re: What happened to you in the history of the social web? – Saturday, 4 October 2008, 08:54 AM) in the Moodle forum and Maru’s post on her blog. For those who do have access to the web, there is a whole world of information to tap into. The skill needed is in knowing how to do this, how to select the information we need and how to assimilate the information. I know that I can ‘google’ any information I need. I know I can also access networks for any information I need. However, accessing information doesn’t equal learning.


What are the weaknesses of connectivism as formulated in this course?


I can’t comment on weaknesses, but I can comment on where connectivism doesn’t resonate with my learning experience – and that is in personal contact. On this course I have made an attempt to ‘connect’. I skim read the Moodle forums – but I  ‘feel’ little connection there, either with the ideas being discussed or with the people. I read a number of blogs, and whilst many posts resonate with my own experience, I have only made very loose connections with people who have either commented on my blog or where I have commented. Connecting through blogs is a slow and laborious business. Blogs were not designed for this. Where I feel more connected is in the synchronous Elluminate and Ustream sessions. There I get some sense of who is on this course and I think that I learn most through these sessions. I can connect more easily with the ideas. But this is the most traditional aspect of the course in terms of teaching and learning, i.e. ‘the lecture’ for ‘the group’. So what does that say about learning in networks, or to qualify – ‘my’ learning in networks?


So is connectivism any more than a by-product of advancing technologies? To me it is obvious that there is just too much information accessible by too many to continue with an education system which relies on ‘the teacher’ to be the source of knowledge. The role of the teacher will have to change and is already changing in many cases – but to what? And if there continues to be a role for teachers, then since teacher and learner are linked, the role of the learner will also change. The inverse will also be the case in that changing learners will necessitate changing teaching. So my outstanding questions are around this relationship.

So, what have been the key learning points for me so far:

1. It is possible to have an open access course for 2000+ participants, provided you have one or more people to manage the technology

2. That Blogs are not good for conversation (I only didn’t know this because I have never tried it before – it never occurred to me that anyone would want to do this. In the past, I have always used blogs for personal reflection.)

3. That forums are subject to ‘trolls’ (I realise that I have been very fortunate in my prior online learning not to have experience of this)

4. That networks don’t support the affective elements of learning (this is obvious, but I have not been involved in any networks before)

5. That for me, the affective elements of learning are very important

6. When the Moodle server is down you can’t find the links for your post!

7. That it’s possible to spend a lot of time not getting very far despite having made efforts to connect! 🙂


5 thoughts on “Taking stock

  1. Carmen Tschofen October 8, 2008 / 8:33 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I hear you on the affective part, and am still chasing my own tail on this:-) I think both George and Stephen have tried to accommodate emotion and/or the personal in their definitions, but at the same time, connectivism doesn’t really seem to be about “feeling” the connections; I’m seeing the act of connecting not so much as personal, but more transactional, perhaps. Knowledge transactions/connections take place every time we read a blog, forum post, etc., whether or not we “feel,” or perhaps even can measure, the value. And value is also not always immediate or obvious to me (or maybe I’m just a slow learner/thinker:-)), but will prove itself later… so it makes the whole thing quite slippery. I do wonder about how learning about connectivism intersects with expectations for connectivism… In any case, I’m reading your blog… and noted your elluminate question about networks in 3-D on my blog a while back. So I’d agree that there’s something to all of this:-)

  2. suifaijohnmak October 9, 2008 / 8:46 am

    Hi Jenny,
    Great to learn your views. I share your feelings, and agree with them.

    As mentioned, unless you define what learning is (under one’s “learning theory”) and what theory means, (under all definintions of “theories” as defined traditionally). Otherwise, there would just be circle games, with people start claiming that this is not learning under my learning theory, or that is not a theory at all under a theory of theories. ?? See Theory of Everything in Wiki, and my blog.

    I see connectivism now in a much simpler way – in that it is about connection of the brain (networks) with “brains” (persons, networks).

    When one is developing a theory, the researcher may not need to be concerned with the application first,. Most theories are based on a scientifice approach and that’s why the affective domains cannot be over-stressed in the formulation, especially in the case of networks. Also, most learning theories fail when people found it difficult to tackle or resolve the affective shortfalls – and that’s why emotional intelligence is important in any learning situation.

    I agree that a lack of affective concerns in networks and one’s interaction with network may have a significant impact on individual and network learning. If you check on my post in the forum in week 4, you could understand what I mean.

    Perhaps, it is stilll worthwhile to make use of a blend of learning theories instead of just relying on one particular learning theory.

    You are welcome to my blog http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com
    on reflection on different learning theories.


  3. suifaijohnmak October 9, 2008 / 12:50 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I have just updated my reflections on connectivism and what’s new with connectivism on
    I’m a bit unsure how to subscribe it to Stephen’s daily or your website. I have tried Stephen’s a few times, and not sure if it works. Or you could give me a hint:
    I know that the RSS should be my blog address and WEB site should be Stephen’s web feed. Correct?

    Would you mind adding mine to your CCK08 central Blog? Or if you can, help me in subscribing to Stephen Downes through yours. ??

    You may find my definition and concepts quite different…That’s my interpretation of the concepts of connectivism.

    My email address is:


  4. jennymackness October 9, 2008 / 6:40 pm

    Hi John. I’m not sure how much I can help you. It’ll be a bit like the blind leading the blind, but I’ll email you with some tentative suggestions in the hope that I can be helpful!

  5. Matthias Melcher October 11, 2008 / 7:04 pm

    “I know that the RSS should be my blog address and WEB site should be Stephen’s web feed. Correct?” No, unfortunately not. In the http://connect.downes.ca/new_feed.htm form, “RSS File URL” means what is on your blog under Meta > Entries RSS, and “Web Page URL”is your blog address.

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